Jayson Blair: ‘I Cannot Imagine Anything I Could Do, No Matter How Long I Live, That Will Change That First Line of My Obituary’


A recent college graduate who has aspirations to be a journalist gets advice from Jayson Blair, at a high school graduation presided over by the disgraced ex-New York Times writer, who says he can’t imagine what the first line of his obituary will read:

“Now Jayson, you have a long life ahead of you. But one day, we’ll read your obituary somewhere, maybe even in The New York Times and I’m wondering what you would like it to say?”

For the first time, Blair’s grin deflates. He folds his arms, cocks his head, and exhales loudly.

“I cannot fathom,” he begins. “I cannot imagine anything I could do, no matter how long I live, that will change that first line of my obituary. I could go on to help thousands more people than I ever would have been able to as a journalist, and it still won’t make a difference.”

Which leads the aspiring journo to this dramatic realization:

As I sit in the cafeteria, listening to Blair drone on about how he networked his way into the Times, I see the faces of all my decayed, hollowed-out fellow journalists passing before my eyes.

And for the first time I realize why I truly hate this buck-toothed, smooth-talking sociopath. Not for his journalistic sins, but for his genius — for the truth that he was able to see. The truth that me and every other desperate journalist “paying their dues” across the globe never understood: journalism is about relationships, not writing. Like business and politics and boating and country clubs, journalism at its highest level is a game for the elite. Jayson learned to play the game without ever being taught. He was a natural, despite not having one shred of dedication to the actual craft of truth-telling.